Shiver Me Timbers – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to have a cool, pirate-inspired sentence that shows your astonishment at something, or expresses that you are amazed? The saying ‘shiver me timbers’ is one that you might have already heard that can be appropriate for this. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The saying ‘shiver me timbers’ is a common phrase that is used as an exclamation of astonishment or surprise.

‘Shiver me timbers’ is a phrase that is most often said in response to something.

Sometimes the phrase is shortened to just ‘me timbers’ and the rest of the meaning is assumed to be understood by the rest of the participants in the conversation.

Often ‘shiver me timbers’ gets used as an exclamation of surprise or astonishment at something. The term ‘shiver me timbers’ can be used as a humorous exaggeration of mock-surprise (and very often is).

The term can be used with an exclamation mark, but it can also sometimes be used without one. Both usages of the term are valid, depending on the grammar that fits with the rest of the sentence.

Even though the term ‘shiver me timbers’ has nautical origins, the phrase is used figuratively and often jokingly.

In spite of its nautical history, the term is almost never a nautical reference.

While the term is not gramatically correct, this use of the term is deliberate and generally accepted.

Example Usage

“I was pretty surprised that his grandfather suddenly decided to get divorced and marry another man on the spot. I mean, shiver me timbers, none of us had expected that to happen.”

“Shiver me timbers! I thought you were still going to stay on vacation for another four weeks at least, and here you walked right into the bar.”

“If you’re going to go into the woods tonight, you’re in for a big surprise. Shiver me timbers, what are talking bears doing in the forest in the first place?”

“Shiver me timbers! I can’t believe it’s not butter.”


While the first use of the term ‘shiver me timbers’ is difficult to track down, the majority of language resources on the internet claim that the term first originated with sailors somewhere in the 1600s or thereafter.

As a term that was used by sailors, the term ‘shiver me timbers’ would refer to anything that affected the ‘timbers’ of the boat.

The term was soon adapted into common, figurative use after the 1800s.

The term ‘shiver me timbers’ would soon become a humorous reference, which sometimes takes a jab at the supposed speaking-patterns of pirates. The term has become especially popular in media, where it gets referenced in many comic strips, cartoons and movies.

If someone says the term ‘shiver me timbers’ then it means that they are surprised at something, often in a mock-surprise or humorous context.

Sometimes the term is just shortened to ‘me timbers’ and the rest of its meaning assumed.

Phrases Similar to Shiver Me Timbers

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Phrases Opposite to Shiver Me Timbers

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What is the Correct Saying?

  • Shiver me timbers

Ways People May Say Shiver Me Timbers Incorrectly

There are several ways in which the term ‘shiver me timbers’ can be used in the incorrect way, especially if someone does not understand the term or the context in which the term is being used.

‘Shiver me timbers’ is a term with nautical origins, but it’s almost never used in this way with the figurative meaning of the term preferred.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Shiver Me Timbers

The correct way to use the phrase ‘shiver me timbers’ is to use it to indicate that someone is surprised or astonished, often in an outright humorous way or with some humorous undertones.

Sometiems the term is shortened to just ‘me timbers’ with the rest of the meaning assumed to be understood by the rest of the conversation.

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